school - Emil Salman - August 31 2010
Parents and students waiting in line to buy school uniforms yesterday in Jerusalem. Photo by Emil Salman
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The secondary school teachers' union is planning to disrupt the start of the school year tomorrow. The union is expected to call on its members to go to school, but not to teach - a strike that will affect grades 7 through 12.

A final decision on the matter is expected to be reached today during a meeting of the teachers' union directorate.

The union is also planning to step up its strike measures after the High Holidays.

In an effort to stem the likelihood of a full-fledged strike, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar has held talks with various individuals in the education system to rally support for a comprehensive reform program.

The National Labor Court backed an Education Ministry request last week not to allow the teachers' union to disrupt the start of the school year or to call a strike in response to the New Horizon education reform program. The court, however, did not bar all possible protests on other grounds, such as the failure to renew the contract with the union, which expired eight months ago.

The court also ruled that union members are entitled to object to the reform and opt not to participate in it.

A protest meeting against the New Horizon program, which involves teaching students in small groups, was held yesterday in Tel Aviv. Dozens of teachers from central Israel participated in the protest, most of whom teach in junior high schools, where the ministry would like to see the reform implemented.

The teachers' union has opposed New Horizon since it was introduced four years ago. This year it is expected to be implemented in 93 percent of the elementary schools and about 24 percent of junior high schools.

"The court barred us from disrupting the school year because of New Horizon, but each union member has the personal right to oppose the reform," said union head Ran Erez at yesterday's gathering. "There is no need to explain it and no one needs to approve it. We will back each teacher who decides not to participate in the program."

"The Education Ministry is trying to destroy the teachers' union and divide up the members between junior high schools and high schools," he continued. "They want us to give up on the junior highs. They accuse me of only saying 'no,' but I'm proud to oppose their moves which harm the teachers and the school system."

Day care workers also plan strike

Meanwhile, Na'amat day care workers announced that they plan to strike on September 1 as a warning. The 3,700-person staff, which operate 250 day care centers for 18,000 children aged three months to three and a half years, are complaining that their wages are too low.

"We make minimum wage and receive income supplements," said union head Nina Klein. "There are employees who have worked for 30 years and earn NIS 4,800 per month. We are demanding a respectable wage, not charity."

The Ministry of Finance said in response that the wages paid to day care center employees are based on the fees paid by parents.

Klein said that if a full-fledged strike breaks out after the holidays, they will be joined by other day care networks, which care for some 90,000 children across the country.